“Babe, I hope you’re going to stay over tonight”. Under normal circumstances, a girl should be thrilled when her new(-ish) man makes such a request. It shows that he wants you, and wants to spend hours holding you in his arms…Or so the movies tell us.

“Oh…”, I suddenly develop a stutter, “w-w-well, I didn’t really plan to, so I don’t have any of my stuff with me…”. You see, I have a little secret that I haven’t quite gotten around to telling my new beau. A secret that would explain why I always found excuses not to get intimate with him, despite the fact that we’ve known each other for years and been dating for about two months. Perhaps a little background is warranted.

I’ve been told that to most people, I come across as a confident, outspoken go-getter who knows what she’s doing and what she wants out of life. Friends and colleagues flock to me, and in some cases, they seem to look to me for leadership. I’m not saying this to blow my own horn, but rather because it completely mystifies me. Me, who can barely look at myself in the mirror!

See, I’ve always been fat. There! I said it. Without all the polish and PC language. I’m plus-size, curvy, full-figured, BBW, whatever you want to call it. I’ve learned to simply call it fat. Now, anyone who knows Ghana, knows that growing up fat in Ghana means you hear children and adults alike shouting, “ei, obolo!” (This is probably the tamest of the names you are called). Or the random strangers who approach you to ‘advise’ you on what to eat or how to lose weight. It never really occurs to people that food may not be the issue…I can’t recall how many times people I know have told me that they were surprised at how little I actually ate, and were wondering why I wasn’t skinny. But I digress.

As a child, my mother frequently encouraged me to ‘hold in my stomach when I was in public’ or to ‘make sure I sat up straight and didn’t slouch’ so I would look more slender. Don’t get me wrong, Mummy was not doing this to punish me; on the contrary, it broke her heart whenever people were mean to me, and she sought to give me something to make me feel more ‘normal’. But instead, all my mind registered was the fact that my body was something to be ashamed of, and so I had to hide it as best I could. That didn’t necessarily mean wearing floor-length dresses and long sleeves, but for a long time, I had a strict notion on what I was ‘allowed’ to wear and what I couldn’t (I think to some extent, I still do). I never wore dresses that didn’t have a seam in the waist; I never, ever wore sleeveless; leggings and tights were out of the question; horizontal stripes were from the devil; and bright colours and busy patterns were to be avoided like the plague!

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Needless to say, I had some serious body-image issues. So just imagine all of those issues, and then you throw in boys. No! I never thought I was attractive enough for a guy to be interested in me. In fact, several years after I left high school, one of my crushes (Lord, how I pined for him!) told me that he had tried to get my attention but I never seemed to give him the time of day. If only he knew how closely I had monitored his movements! But I was completely oblivious to the fact that he may have been interested as well.

Although I had friends, this feeling of inadequacy wasn’t something I was ever comfortable saying out loud. But strangely enough people didn’t seem to notice my feelings of inadequacy. Instead, I daresay I was fairly popular in school. The thing is, I love to laugh and get to know people; thus, they’re drawn to me. But for the life of me, I couldn’t see any guy seriously wanting to date me!

Once I got to Uni, I had become a bit more analytical and introspective, so I did a serious assessment of myself. I took a good hard look at myself (figuratively), and weighed the truths of my self-assumptions. It was such a good feeling when I was able to start affirming my self-worth! So, I finally said yes to a date with a guy from one of my classes. Eventually, I hooked myself a man (And a fine one at that! Ha!). Going out on dates with him was always a lot of fun, but after a few dates, there is the expectation of intimacy. I think you can imagine my answer to that: hell no!

I wish my reasons for saying no were religious (which is what I told him); at least that would have made me feel proud of myself. The truth is that I simply couldn’t stand the thought of somebody seeing me naked. Up until that point, I had never really looked at myself naked in the mirror before. While other girls were eager to look at their features and ass-ets (see what I did there?), I dressed up as quickly as possible without looking too closely at any part of body. I only looked in mirrors when I was fully clothed, to see if everything was properly hidden.

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Halfway through college, I became quite ill and bedridden for a few months. Inasmuch as I felt like crap, I was secretly gleeful because I could literally see the weight dropping away. By the time I recovered and went back to campus, I had gone down two dress sizes. Suddenly, I was no longer ‘that fat girl’; I was ‘that girl with body!’. A psychologist will probably have a field day with this, but I didn’t care. I was in heaven! My confidence came in droves, and I felt like I was finally living my life. I mustered the courage and broke my virginity under cover of darkness (the CIA has got nothing on me and my stealth moves!). To say it was an unmemorable experience is an understatement, and I quickly decided that sex was really not worth all the fuss. But I wanted the virginity issue out of the way. So, the new me had my share of college fun. But I think you know how that story ends: the weight started to come back. *sigh*.

By the time I met my current suitor (let’s call him Patrick), I was at a mid-way point between my original weight and the pseudo-skinny me. Even though I was bummed that some of the weight came back, I had learned a very important lesson during that ‘skinny’ period: people treat you how you expect to be treated. So, I determined to do better. But still, the intimacy…

So now, you understand why I gulped so hard when Patrick asked me to stay. I had managed to dodge this step for some time. But I suddenly realized that it was unfair to keep him in the dark about my struggles because all I was accomplishing was making him feel unwanted. And I really liked being with him. So that night I told him some of my fears. And he listened to me without dismissing them. Then he asked me to also listen to him without dismissing what he said.

He told me how beautiful he thought I was; how much he has looked forward to ‘unpacking my assets’. He told me how hard I make him sometimes when he sees me. Then he offered a compromise: why don’t we just make out for a bit (that one de?, I could do it well paa!), and see how things went. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? And you would think I would be thrilled at the offer. But like an idiot, the first thought that filled my mind was, “me koraa, I haven’t shaved down there in a while oh…”

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I’m sure most of you are shaking your heads. I am too, as I write this. But luckily, it looks like Mr. Man was on a mission that day. And for some reason, I was very much aware of the fact that if I walked out that night, it would probably mean the end of this relationship.

So, I stayed. And we kissed. And we cuddled. And believe it or not, I was the one who moved from kissing and cuddling, to stroking and…well, I think you get the picture. At the end of the day, I turned off all the lights (baby steps!) and agreed to make love with my man.

Seeing as I had very limited experience with sex previously, I’m not sure what my expectations were. But he was sweet and gentle and attentive. The first time. But oh my, whoever invented morning sex is a genius! Who knew what I was missing out on? Let me just say, toes curling, choking on your breath, doesn’t begin to cover it! I honestly thought I was having a seizure! Ha!

So, this is where my story ends, and where it also begins. The Obolo who is learning to embrace her looks, and accept that someone could desire her. I’m making new strides every day, discovering lots of interesting stuff (wink, wink!), and learning to love myself more each time. I’ve discovered the little, seemingly inconsequential things that I can do, which turn my man on in a heartbeat. And each time that happens, I think to myself, “I did that; I really caused that to happen!” There’s such heady power in that knowledge. It’s like no drug on this earth, I reckon.

I also finally managed to look in the mirror. I still don’t like everything I see. But that’s okay. I don’t expect to be perfect yet. I love the me that I am now, even as I work towards growing into the me that I envision. And it was all thanks to this man, who ‘unpacked my assets’ and thus spoke to me in the language of my heart so that the words finally got through to me. And of course, the mind-blowing orgasms…

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